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Flavor of the Month

12.14.2000 | CULTURE

Tara. You have silently invaded my public spaces; my convenience stores, my gas stations, my train and bus station newsstands, my chain bookstores and my barbershops. By crouching in a pair of white stockings before a white wall you have fixated yourself in the nexus of desire. Congratulations. The gaze is now on you.

The vehicle for your ubiquity is Maxim. Have you ever read the magazine? It's the most popular of the magazines aimed at today's man--the one who wakes up in cold sweats after a claustrophobic nightmares about soccer moms, date movies and unisex fragrances. Maxim displays what the modern man wants: gadgets and fashion, sex and relationship advice. All the while, the magazine stays within weird self prescribed boundaries, ensuring that the reader wouldn't be ashamed to be seen reading it on the train, or when his parents come to visit his hastily cleaned up bachelor pad. The pictured women, though sexy, are certainly not pornographic, the articles on gadgetry are gushy, but not geeky, the fashion is hetero with a capital "H" and underlined for emphasis, the relationship and sex advice winks, knowing that the reader needs no help in those departments.

Obviously, there is a finite amount of things that men want--Maxim can't run articles about cell phones every month without taxing its audience's patience and attention span. And much of magazine's ideal content is unavailable; Britney Spears would probably not appear in the magazine, for example. The magazine comes out monthly, so at a certain point they need to manufacture need. This is most readily apparent in the area of the monthly Maxim girl. Tara, I'm looking at you now for a reason.

The choice of the covergirl is dictated by a couple of factors. First, the aforementioned unavailability of established starlets. An established female would not need the publicity/notoriety that appearing in Maxim would provide. Second, Maxim is not trying to cultivate the anonymous augmented supermodel that peoples Playboy's centerfolds. Maxim does not give its readership pictures of improbably proportioned "girls next door," but girls who are already inside their homes; the girls of the nascent UPN or the WB networks, the female stars of movies that fade from consciousness quickly, emerging months later on a wall display at blockbuster video, or perhaps a pretty young woman engaged to marry a popular MTV Veejay.

Maxim can't get Britney the phenomenon and doesn't want to settle on Mandy the Hooters waitress, so they catch rising starlets; the ones that need the Maxim treatment--transformation from low rated TV show bit player to low brow sex pot. The magazine can generate "buzz" around the celebrity equivalents of wallflowers almost effortlessly. This word of mouth generating aspect of the Maxim girl became apparent to me when a friend of mine, some months ago, said "I had no idea the girl from Sabrina the Teenage Witch was so hot until I saw her in Maxim." I'm not sure that his appreciation for her cheesecake pictorial translated into his ever watching the show, but that's kinda besides the point, innit?

And Tara, you are the woman that men want this month. You have been placed on the cover as the top of the list of the things men want, and emphatically cannot have. You are away from us all now, set in a universe of cell phones, fast cars and thousand dollar silk suits. You are the impossible woman that hundreds of thousands of men between the ages of 18 and 35 will think of this month when not obsessed with their receding hairlines and car payments. You are a fetishized dream. You are beyond reality.

But you are real to me. Why? Simple. Because we come from the same anonymous bedroom community. In fact, we went to Junior High School together. Which is why, all of a sudden, I care about who's on the cover of Maxim.

Don't worry. I have no dirt, no gossip, no scandals about you. As far as I know your childhood was free of pubescent trysts, cruel abusive show business parents, addiction to painkillers, and the rest. The meager scoop I have consists of this: after appearing in a Hot Wheels commercial while in elementary you acted according to one account somewhat "uppity," and on at least one occasion in junior high school you wore a sweater as a pair of pants. All of your skeletons, if there are indeed any, shall remain safely ensconced in your spacious walk-in closet. And I am not a stalker, nor am I planning on doing something "special" to impress you.

The thing is, although I can not remember sharing a single conversation with you (in fact I can't even recall, or imagine, an occasion wherein we may have talked--we shared no classes, ran in separate social circles, etc.) and I have no documented record that we went to the same junior high school (The thirteen dollars or so allotted for the purchase of an eighth grade yearbook was spent on a cassette copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall.) I can't place you in the universe you want to enter. You want to be in the part of my mind that is devoted to wanting what it knows it will never get. You want to be a commodity, and my personal knowledge of you won't let that happen.

You want to be the "It" girl. I'm sure you've heard that phrase bandied about here and there. I'm not sure though that anyone has explained the history or the meaning of the term to you. "It," in the parlance of the times, means elusive appeal, and is synonymous with entertainment news terms like "buzz" and "heat," but was originally meant as flat out sex appeal. As the "It" girl, you are a spiritual heir to a woman named Clara Bow.

Clara Bow, who has been called the first screen siren, starred in a 1927 vehicle called "The It girl." It was not her first film, but it was the first movie to cement her fame. Her "American Pie," if you will. Clara, who by the standards of our day is far from a beauty, was agreed to be the sexiest thing in the world at the time of her fame. Unlike the ethereal Lillian Gish or the coquettish Mary Pickford, Clara possessed a wanton sexual appeal. She was blowsy. Almost vulgar. Plagued by scandals and unable to enter the sound era of her film because of her thick Brooklyn accent, Clara married and retired from show business. She spent most of the later years of her life in and out of insane asylums.

Maybe you should consider the story of Clara, the woman who every man wanted to fuck until they heard her talk, as a cautionary tale. Maybe you should think that making the transition from being a regular girl from Wyckoff, New Jersey into a commodity of desire can be dangerous. Or maybe that's not the point at all.

Listen. I was in a bookstore in Jersey when I saw your issue. It stunned me for a second. I'm not sure exactly why. It was probably just another too much coffee, not enough food kind of moment that I really should be used to by now, but I was, nonetheless stunned. As I walked out of the store, still in my queasy, star struck daze, I ran into a girl I knew from some years back who had become pregnant when she was sixteen and had to drop out of her all girl's Catholic high school. She is doing fine, by the way. She, like both of us, grew up in Wyckoff. As she told me about her college classes and her child I debated whether or not I should tell her about how you are on the cover of Maxim. Ultimately, I didn't. I just wished her luck, got in my car and drove away, thinking all the while about want, need and the half remembered names of girls in junior high school.

About the Author
New Jersey native Adam Bulger currently resides in Hartford, CT. As a free-lance writer he has written numerous articles on booze, cops and robots.
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